Jamey, one of my younger students, has a very cool, Epiphone Flying V short-scale guitar. That’s just a fancy way of saying that it is a tiny guitar made for tiny players. Despite the cool body style, this guitar has one, very uncool problem: it does not sound in tune when playing chords. Jamey asked me to help out.
After looking at the all of the usual suspects, including action, intonation and tuning stability, I was a bit befuddled. Everything checked out. But, if I played a chord, the guitar would sound awfully
out of tune! But why? Then it hit me. The strings are too spongy, too easy to bend.
When we shorten the neck of a guitar for smaller hands, we make the strings shorter. But here’s the thing: shorter strings naturally make a higher pitched note. Consequently, in order to tune the shortened string to the usual pitch, we must loosen it. A looser string feels soft and can easily be see-sawed out of tune by pressing it too hard against the fret (think of a vertical bend). That’s the phenomenon that is happening here.
To counter that effect, I put heavier strings on the guitar (0.13s to be exact). Heavier gauge strings are naturally lower pitched and therefore need to be tightened to bring them to standard tuning. That’s exactly what we need: a stiffer string that will resist that see-saw bending effect and keep the notes that are being fretted closer to proper tuning.
Next time you witness this phenomenon on a short-scale guitar, try putting heavy gauge strings on it. That may be exactly what you need.
For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit www.ewguitar.com.
Hi I have the same mini Flying V by Epiphone buy in red. When I received it it came with tuning instructions and mentioned that it should be turned instead of E A D G B E to it to G C F B C# G I find that the chords sound really better. So I’m thinking that would be a step and a half from regular tuning on a full size guitar. Please let me know your thoughts.
Hi! Thanks for checking out my blog post and video. Those instructions seem to be correct, except tuning up a step-and-a-half would be G C F Bb D G. The notes that you indicated on the G and B string were not up a step-and-a-half, but rather two steps and one step, respectively.
The instructions that you have solve the problem (that is, the strings are too loose on a short-scale guitar) by adding tension to them by tuning them higher than standard. I’m solving the problem in a different, and arguably better, way. By using heavier strings which require more tension to be tuned to standard pitch than lighter strings, I’m solving main problem (string tension) while not introducing another (funky, higher tuning).
Thanks again for check out my post. Happy jamming!!
Hi, I am so glad I found your post. I just build a 1/2 size guitar. Put strings on it set it up, and when I finaly could play it, it sounded terrible. I bought .11 strings because I knew they had to be heavyer. Good to know I have to go even heavyer. I am going to buy .13 strings and hope it will solve my problem too. Thanks
I’m glad that you found the post too. I’m sure it will help you out. Let me know!
Hi, yesterday i finally had time to buy new strings, .13. It felt like I had bass strings in my hands.
But the problem has been solved. Thank you very much.
You’re very welcome!